David McBride, a former army lawyer who revealed information about alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan, could be facing a “life sentence” if found guilty in a trial that starts on Monday.
While Australia has established an independent special investigator into alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan, supporters of McBride point out he is facing a criminal trial before any of the perpetrators of the alleged wrongdoing he helped reveal.
“It seems strange that when clearly so many things went wrong in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, that I am the first person to [face trial]”, McBride told Al Jazeera in an interview before his trial began. “It’s extremely likely that I will be facing prison and not just short term but for quite a long time,” the defence whistleblower added.
McBride is open about the fact he leaked documents to the ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, leading to a series of articles called the Afghan Files.
“I’ve been charged with leaking documents,” McBride said. “I’ve never made a secret of that.”
Instead, he wants the conversation to be about whether it was right to speak out.
“What I want to be discussed is whether or not I was justified in doing so,” the whistleblower says.
Although McBride, a former lawyer for the Australian and British armies, sees the information he revealed as being in the public interest, his ability to claim a whistleblowing defence has been limited by claims of national security.
He is going on trial “without the benefit of being able to rely” on a whistleblower defence, Kieran Pender a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, an Australian organisation based in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera.